A TAVISTOCK primary school teacher is on top of the world after scooping a European multi-sport championships silver medal title.

Sam Lake, who teaches 7-11 year-olds at Tavistock Primary School, swam and ran her way to the podium finish in the female 44 class title at the ITU World Triathlon Multisport Championships in Menen, Belgium – beating elite and younger competitors on her way.

Sam, who is an experienced amateur endurance athlete, with many notable achievements behind her, joined other West Devon athletes at the multi-national event, including Helen Kula-Przezwanski in the aquathlon to swim 1,000m in a river, followed by a 5km road run.

Sam, who trains with Tavistock Swimming Club, ACE Swimming for open water and Tavistock Athletics Club for running, said: ‘The previous night had seen some serious thunder, lightening and rain so the river made conditions for the swim rather tricky however this didn’t stop our Tavistock contingent. 

‘Going into this race I had mixed emotions, I knew my swimming had been going really well but running has been a bit of a roller coaster recently. I really didn’t know what to expect performance wise.

‘I knew the competition was extremely fierce, including going up against the open water swimming world champion, as it always is in my age group. I just wanted to give it my all.

Sam lake 2023 euros aquathlon  podium
Sam Lake on the podium for the Euros Aquathlon championships in Belgium. (submitted)

‘The swim was wetsuit optional, so it was a no-brainer to wear mine.  We waited nervously on the pontoon in what felt like the longest minute ever.

 ‘From the starting horn, I felt like I got into a good position, only a few knocks against other swimmers, then clear water. I could see the world champion heading off, but didn’t panic, I wanted to swim my own race. We got to the turn point and my line felt good, no dramas. I tried to build on my position on the way back and began overtaking green hats of the younger age category swimmers from the previous starting wave. It gave me a new focus, I just pipped a few more before the dreaded steps out of the water.

‘I really had to yank myself out of the water they were extremely steep, but managed somehow.

‘Once my hands were free I started removing my wetsuit. Arms first, down to the middle — usual drill.

‘I wasn’t 100 per cent sure what position I was in at this point but remember feeling anxious as I began the run. 

‘I had no idea how my legs would feel. They usually feel wobbly on land after a hard swim which is common to everyone, and I went hard in the swim.

‘I felt relief when the bounce and strides came back into my legs. I started picking people off, trying to overtake women in may age category and even a few 16-25 year olds which made me feel good pretty good as they started ten minutes ahead of my wave. The run route was good, no sharp turns just two loops with a few inclines but also nice downhill sections. 

‘I felt I went as hard as I could and ran down the special blue carpet with nothing left. I crossed the finish line satisfied. The silver medal was mine. 

‘A huge well done to everyone who raced at the Euros. You should all be super proud of representing GB at this level.’

Sam was also third fastest swimmer out of all age female groups even beating some elite times. Helen finished 5th in her age group (55-59). Sam’s run was also the 2nd fastest overall female time and she was 4th overall in all age groups in a fantastic total time of 35.55.  Showing how fast her age group was - the winner posted the fastest time overall and the fastest swim time, beating all the elite (non-age category) athletes too.

Last year she won her age category in the same championships and has represented England in the World Marathon Masters and run in the British Marathon Championships five times, achieving a best of 2hours 59minutes.

Sam, who has two children, has also represented GB several times before achieving a bronze medal at the World Championships in 2018 and three silvers in 2017, 2018 and 2019 in the European Championships and bronze in the middle distance Euro Championships in 2018.